A construction worker at an HS2 building site in the Euston area of London on May 6, 2020.
ISABEL INFANTES | AFP | Getty Images
Often involving thousands of people, large infrastructure projects comprise a range of stakeholders, including architects, designers, engineers and construction workers.
The way these schemes operate is changing, with technology and ideas focused on sustainability and efficiency becoming increasingly important.
One project that’s integrated renewable energy and smart technology into its development is HS2, a major high-speed rail network which, once up and running, plans to cut travel times between London and other major urban centers in England.
In recent weeks, HS2 has released details of several initiatives taking place on its sites. These include the trial of artificial intelligence technology to help the multi-billion dollar infrastructure plan lower carbon emissions and costs, as well as the use of electric construction equipment.
And, at the end of September, it was announced HS2 had been piloting solar and hydrogen powered cabins at site locations operated by the Costain Skanska and Skanska Costain STRABAG joint ventures, which are involved in the project’s development.
Designed and built by a firm called AJC Trailers, and supplied by GAP Group, the buildings use solar panels backed up by a hydrogen fuel-cell. The “Ecosmart ZERO” cabins, as they’re known, provide kitchen, toilet and changing room facilities for workers. Designed to be low noise, they emit only water vapor. In relatively simple terms, a fuel-cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, heat and water.
Across a period of 21 weeks, HS2 said 16 of the cabins saved 112 metric tons of carbon. This, it added, represented “the equivalent of what would be absorbed by over 3,367 trees over a whole year.” By contrast, if a standard diesel generator had been deployed, 40,000
University of Birmingham | Porterbrook
Trials of a hydrogen-powered train are underway in the U.K. with an initial journey successfully completed between the locations of Long Marston and Evesham in the West Midlands region of England.
The HydroFLEX train — which has been developed by a team from the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook, a rolling stock firm — uses a fuel-cell which combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, heat and water.
The train has been fitted with a range of kit inside one of its carriages. This tech includes a hydrogen fuel tank, the aforementioned fuel-cell and lithium ion batteries for storage. It’s hoped that the technology will be available to retrofit trains already in use by the year 2023.
A statement issued Wednesday, published on the website of both the University of Birmingham and U.K. government, said the university was also, “developing a hydrogen and battery powered module that can be fitted underneath the train.” The idea behind this modification is that it will create more room in the carriage to host passengers.
In its own announcement, Porterbrook described the train being used in the trials as a “demonstrator unit.” Citing customer demand, the firm also said it planned to put the HydroFLEX into production. This version of the train, it added, would “be configured for operation using both overhead-electric-wires and hydrogen for non-electrified routes.”
The trials have been backed by a grant of £750,000 (around $962,362) from the U.K.’s Department of Transport, while over £1 million has already been invested in the project by the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook.
Wednesday’s news comes at the end of a month that’s seen several interesting developments in the arena of hydrogen-powered transport.
Last week, in airspace over England, a hydrogen fuel-cell plane capable of carrying passengers completed its